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Virtual Organizations: the Benefits, Problems, the Solutions

Virtual Organizations: The Benefits, Problems, The Solutions Technology in the early millennium was not as advanced as it is today. In the late nineties, email and MySpace were the primary means of networking for people, iPads were only a dream, and the closest thing to a smartphone was a phone with a built-in camera. This decade promises more than advanced communication; it converges on computer-based intelligence with enhanced interactive networking forums. On the social networking level, webcasting and live-streaming have become second to live chat via internet or traditional voice.

The implications for these developments in a business are critical. Within this paper we will discuss what a virtual organization is, the benefits and problems that may be presented with using this type of organization, and the different types of ways that you can avoid such things from coming up. The first question that should be asked is, what is a virtual organization? A virtual organization is defined by the article, The Impact of Individual Expectations and expectation Conflicts on Virtual Teams, as “a group of geographically dispersed members who carry out independent tasks toward a common goal. The Impact of Individual Expectations and Expectation Conflicts on Virtual Teams , p. 350). As explained in the definition, virtual organizational employees do not need to be in the same time and place to get their ideas across but rather use the power of technology to able to keep tabs on one another and progress of the team goal. With this definition, this can show one of the benefits to having a virtual organization versus a traditional one. This leads me into my next question: what are the types of benefits that can be associated with using a virtual organization rather than a traditional?

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One benefit that can be said about a virtual organization is that technology has provided companies, as stated by How Technology Has Influenced the Field of Corporate Communication, a way to become more a part of the companies’ day- to-day plans. The journal’s article elaborates upon this benefit by saying that with virtual organizations corporations are able to stay tapped into their daily company activities, and they are able to reach their employees around the world that they wouldn’t be able to reach under normal circumstances.

This means that if I were a CEO of a fortune 500 company and I had to take make sure that a part of the project was being completed, if I did not feel like spending the time or money to fly out to the destination where it was being completed, then with the help of virtual teams I can use such technologies as Skype or Cisco telecommunications technology to view the progress of that item. Even though there are many benefits to using virtual organizations there also must be drawbacks to using this system.

With any type of technology as we all know there are many negatives that come with using it. With virtual organizations, there is nothing different about the problems that these companies may be enduring. As we see in the journal of computer-mediated communication, three things that cannot present a problem towards these virtual teams are trust, performance, and the communication process on making decisions upon these virtual organizations. The first problem that may exist is the trust issue between the groups/organizations.

In the journal article, Trust, Performance, and the Communication Process in Ad Hoc Decision-Making Virtual Teams, it states that trust within a team helps move the team forward with the project and also makes the overall quality of the project better. With this all being said, within a virtual team, most of the team members are geographically spread out around the world with little communication cues. Often with complications within technology, it is hard to develop that comfort and complete trust with your teammates to be able to give you things on time, or, on the flip side, ask them questions on things you may have problems with.

A second problem that may arise is telecommuting and legitimacy between virtual organizations. The main problem with telecommuting, which also means to work at home, is that on-site workers may not consider the work of the telecommuters to be legitimate, or as legitimate as their own work. This is a problem that needs examination. Legitimacy can be divided into three forms: pragmatic, moral, and cognitive legitimacy. Pragmatic legitimacy is based on awareness of shared values, such as the needs of fellow employees. Moral legitimacy is based on validity f procedures, structures, and outcomes. Cognitive legitimacy is based on the employees’ abilities to understand situations (Hylmo, 2006, p. 544). It is important to have this knowledge in a virtual organization so that it does not fall apart. As a telecommuter, one will face a few challenges. The biggest challenge will be creating a boundary between “work” and “home. ” Another challenge will be following correct procedures and processes associated with one’s line of work. One other challenge will be maintaining organizational identity.

Overcoming these challenges is not only the job of the employee, but partly the employer as well. Employers need to know that these problems exist; they must also try to train the employee to be able to contribute legitimate work because without this training the culture and standards that the company puts forth will not be reflected within their employees work. With trust, telecommuting, and legitimacy issues, you must be wondering if there could be no more serious types of problems that could arise from using virtual teams.

The biggest problems that exist with these types of organizations are organizational identification and public self –awareness. Monitoring performance and enforcing procedures and rules among dispersed people can be very expensive and difficult, due to the lack of co-location. Shared goals among employees and the company as a whole, trust amongst each other, and employee motivation are key ingredients for successful progress. Organizational identification should positively affect these key ingredients for successful progress, and it should eliminate the need for expensive monitoring and supervision systems.

Organizational identification stands for the psychological and social ties connecting employees and their organization. It describes the conventions and norms associated with employee behavior toward one another and the company as a whole, such as trust, commitment, and practices. Identification can be crucial to virtual organizations because it makes certain tasks easier, such as the control of and coordination amongst employees. Most of the time, the output and efficiency of employees depends on their ability to rely on and coordinate with others.

Communication is needed to establish organizational identification among employees or affiliates of an organization, but once players have it, organizational identification is crucial for the continuance of efficient communication. When decision makers make decisions that are purely in the best interest for their organization, they have organizational identity. So, having said this, we now know how important it is to effectively incept a feeling of organizational identification among employees. The process of doing this is rhetorical, meaning that you cannot just teach employees to have an organizational identity.

Managers must constantly verbalize their own organizational identity in speaking with employees until the employees catch on and start doing it themselves. Chaput, Brummans, and Cooren (2011) describe three techniques that can be used to accomplish this goal: (a) the common ground technique (management equates the organization with the individual); (b) identification through antithesis (management unites the organization against a common ‘enemy’); or (c) the assumed or transcendent ‘we’ technique (management ambiguously uses the noun ‘we’ when communicating about the organization and all of its members). p. 256) The presence of multiple people with organizational identity, either making a presentation at a meeting or merely just chatting with one another via an instant messenger, gives the organization itself a presence in the conversation, as if it were a conscious entity contributing to the conversation. Another problem that may arise with using virtual communication is public self-awareness. As stated by the journal entry on pg. 2 of Trust, Performance, and the Communication Process in Ad Hoc Decision-Making Virtual Teams, when a virtual organization team focuses on themselves more than others, they may feel as though their contributions toward the project may not be adequate enough. The next way that public awareness causes a problem for virtual teams is that sometimes messages could be misread, especially within e-mail since most people in these types of organizations and teams do not have too much experience in dealing with one another to be able to get a feel for the person in a general conversation.

If public self-awareness and trust issues are big problems of using virtual teams that what are some solutions to avoid these problems? It seems like the benefits outweigh the problems. The way that most organizations can avoid these types of problems with virtual organizations is by creating and enabling virtual copresence. In the article Trust, Performance, and the Communication Process in Ad Hoc Decision-Making Virtual Teams, virtual copresense is best defined and explained as the “subject feeling of being together with others in a virtual environment” (Altschuller & Fich 33).

Furthermore, “Whereas presence connotes ‘‘being there,’’ co-presence describes ‘‘being there together’’ (Schroeder, 2006). Increased feelings of copresence change the way virtual communicants view themselves in relation to their teammates thereby affecting the level of trust between them. Virtual copresence not only creates a ‘‘sense of connection’’ (Nardi et al. , 2000) and ‘‘closer ties’’ (Malhotra & Majchrzak, 2005) among team members” (Altschuler & Fich p. 33).

Virtual copresence helps foster a sense of trust between team members even though they are in different parts of the world. It also gives them the same type of confidence that people who see their partners on a regular day do when they have a deadline to complete the project. Another way to solve the problems that may arise in virtual organizations is the creation of podcasts for the virtual organization. The reason that podcasts are good is because they are the best way to combine face-to-face and virtual communication in the context of a virtual organization.

Using podcasts, even as mere replacements for routine emails among collaborative teams will encourage the use of organizational identity, and, more broadly, it will allow for the construction of organizational culture, especially in the situation of a virtual organization. Podcasts adapt particularly well to unstructured work spaces due to portability and its low-cost, maybe even free-of-cost, nature (Tulley, 2011, p. 259). They can be played and replayed whenever necessary, even on company-issue cellular devices, and can also be used as a valuable tool to assess the performance of employees.

Earlier we mentioned that monitoring performance and enforcing procedures and rules among dispersed people can be very expensive and difficult, due to the lack of co-location in a virtual organization. The use of podcasts can not only be used to monitor performance of teams of employees, but also to ensure and assess the use of organizational identity. Podcasts used in the manner that we are suggesting should contain short “bursts” of information and should be no longer than three to five minutes in length for peer to peer use in an organization.

Research recommends that employees be clearly briefed on how they will be required to create and use podcasts for specific purposes in order to maximize the benefits of using the podcast technology. In conclusion, virtual organizations do have benefits by being able to defeat the notion of having to be in the same place at the same time for the purpose of getting work done as a team. It also has the benefit of being able to micro-manage different sectors of their organizations when having to oversee important changes toward the projects that they are completing.

With all these benefits towards these types of teams, there are drawbacks. The drawbacks which were highlighted in the beginning are trust, organizational identification, public self -awareness, telecommuting, and legitimacy. These drawbacks present serious problems because they can hinder the progress of a group or the overall effectiveness of the project at hand, but, with these drawbacks, there are many solution s that can help avoid these problems.

The two types of solutions that we highlighted within this paper are virtual coprescence and podcasts. With virtual coprescence you can make sure that the group has the sense of connection with each other since they are all dispersed in different locations. Podcasts are the best way to combine face-to-face and virtual communication due to the fact that they can be played and on many different types of media enabled devices and can be used as a valuable asset to assess the performance of employees. Podcasts are low cost as well.

These items have contributed to our knowledge of organizational behavior by seeing that, for managers to properly keep a virtual team running effectively, they need to develop a sense of belonging among team members and make sure that everybody feels like they have an identity within the certain scope of the project. Resources Altschuller, Shoshana, and Raquel Benbunan-Fich. “Trust, Performance, and the Communication Process in Ad Hoc Decision-Making Virtual Teams. ” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 16. 1 (2010): 27-47.

Argenti, P. A. “How Technology Has Influenced the Field of Corporate Communication. ” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 20. 3 (2006): 357-70. Bosch-Sijtsema, P. “The Impact of Individual Expectations and Expectation Conflicts on Virtual Teams. ” Group & Organization Management 32. 3 (2007): 358-88. Chaput, M. , Brummans, B. , and Cooren, F. (2011, April 7). The Role of Organizational Identification in the Communicative Constitution of an Organization: A Study of Consubstantialization in a Young Political Party.

Management Communication Quarterly. Retrieved from http://mcq. sagepub. com/content/25/2/252 Hylmo, A. (2006, May). Telecommuting and the Contestability of Choice: Employee Strategies to Legitimize Personal Decisions to Work in a Preferred Location. Management Communication Quarterly. Retrieved from http://mcq. sagepub. com/content/19/4/541 Tulley, C. (2011, March 7). IText Reconfigured: The Rise of the Podcast. Journal of Business and Technical Communication. Retrieved from http://jbt. sagepub. com/content/25/3/256


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